Translational research hospital opens doors

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

Translational research hospital opens doors

Currently, 86% of potentially lifesaving scientific discoveries never make it out of the lab. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), a specialty, non-profit hospital for patients with the most severe, complex conditions, is setting out to change this statistic. The RIC will now be known as the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab as it opens the doors to its cutting-edge research hospital of the same name.

“Science is now at a boiling point, with the convergence of disciplines and discovery — in computer capability, sensor technology, microbiology, pharmacology, material science, brain imaging and tissue engineering,” said Joanne C Smith, MD, president and CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

“With direct, ongoing exposure to a clinical environment, scientists will conduct research with greater intention, based on the needs of patients that they themselves observe. This model of translational research will change the way people work and the way patients get better, increasing the likelihood that promising research ideas will be converted into viable medical treatments,” she said.

Radically shifting paradigm

The $550 million Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Chicago, is the first ever ‘translational’ research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists work together in the same space 24/7, surrounding patients, discovering new approaches and applying (or ‘translating’) research in real time. The hospital provides 242 private patient rooms.

“The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the only hospital in the world where doctors focused on solving patient challenges now work side-by-side with scientists focused on finding cures,” said Jude Reyes, chairman of the board of directors for the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. “The result is focused discovery and innovation on behalf of patients, who will be poised to achieve their best possible recoveries here,” he said.

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab incorporates five Innovation Centres:

  1. Brain Innovation Center
  2. Spinal Cord Innovation Center
  3. Nerve, Muscle & Bone Innovation Center
  4. Paediatric Innovation Center
  5. Cancer Rehabilitation Innovation Center

Interdisciplinary teams will work in dedicated ‘labs’ to develop new research and insights to help patients gain more function, achieve better outcomes and enjoy greater ability and independence. Each lab is designed for a targeted function:

  • Think + Speak Lab: treatment for fundamental brain functions — arousal, lucidity, awareness, thinking, communication, perception, memory and learning.
  • Legs + Walking Lab: improvement of locomotion, gait and walking via trunk and pelvis stability; positioning and control of the hips, knees and ankles; and stepping and propulsion.
  • Arms + Hands Lab: improvement of hand function and movement, body and upper-limb coordination, strength, reaching and hand/finger control.
  • Strength + Endurance Lab: improvement of stamina and resilience, complex motor and endurance activities, coordination and higher-level activities of daily living (eg, cooking, housekeeping, exercise, sports).
  • Paediatric Lab: treatment for all of the above, with a customised approach for the developing brains, bodies and conditions unique to children (infants to teens).

Image caption: The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Chicago.

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